Last reviewed on November 20, 2014   —  6 Comments

While this is no longer a "PayPal problem" it is affecting more users in recent weeks: Google docs does not include http (or https) in embedded links and a number of users are reporting problems with other URLs.

If you see Outlook trying to connect to a URL formatted like this: //, the problem is the missing http protocol. Any of the solutions on this page will fix the " problem" and other urls that are missing https: in the url.

Outlook users have experienced issues with Outlook hanging when they view email messages from PayPal, Google Docs, and YouTube. Outlook goes into a not responding state while it tries to process a web bug using a url that is missing HTTPS:.

In addition to the hangs, another concern is that Outlook is trying to connect to a web address, even though all external content is supposed to be blocked.

My blocked external content settings.

I don’t allow any automatic downloads, not even from trusted addresses, but Fiddler shows traffic to when I select a message that causes Outlook to hang.

Fiddler shows Outlook connecting to the web server

Bad Outlook! When I say "don’t download external content" I don't want you to contact the server. Outlook thinks the address is a local network address, and since it trusts local network addresses, it tries to connect. In this case, the URL is invalid, so Outlook hangs until it times out. But if the URL were valid, Outlook would happily download the content.

This bug needs fixed ASAP. it defeats the reason many people blocking web bugs in email: not being tracked when you read email.

Until its fixed, any marketer can defeat the blocked external content feature by leaving the HTTP off the URL and track what you did with the message, or display images.

Thanks PayPal and for bringing this bug to my attention!

If you are affected by this problem:

Be patient. Outlook will eventually display the message (it takes a minute or so here.) However, every time you select an affected message you need to wait for Outlook to time out.

Other solutions: edit the hosts file to point the offending domain to the local host. Outlook will time out faster with this entry in Hosts. Read all messages in plain text, or use a run a script rule to convert affected messages to plain text.

Run a Script Rule

Note: converting a message to plain text using this script will destroy the HTML part. You will not be able to convert it back to HTML later. Reading all messages in plain text will allow you to switch messages back to HTML.

To use, press Alt+F11 to open the VBA editor. Expand Project1 to locate ThisOutlookSession and paste the following code into the right side of the screen. Save and close the VB Editor.

Create a rule in Outlook with conditions that apply to the affected messages and select the Run a Script as the action. Select the script and complete the rule.

Sub ConvertToPlain(oMail As MailItem)
    Dim strID As String
    Dim objMail As Outlook.MailItem
    strID = oMail.EntryID
    Set objMail = Application.Session.GetItemFromID(strID)
    objMail.BodyFormat = olFormatPlain
    Set objMail = Nothing
End Sub

Edit HOSTS file

Type Notepad in the Start menu's Search field (or find it on the Start menu). Right click on Notepad and choose Run as Administrator. (You'll need to enter your administrator password in Windows 7 or Vista).

Hosts filePaste this line in the File, Open dialog then press Enter.


Type or paste a line formatting like the following lines, into the hosts file and save. To block other sites, use the same format: 127.0.01

Save the file.

Note: if you don't open Notepad using Run as Administrator, you'll need to save the file to My Documents and copy it to folder. Using Run as Admin is so much easier. :) If you don't see Run as Administrator on the right-click menu of Notepad, hold Shift and right click again.

If you need to keep a copy of the message, you should convert it to plain text format or edit the message to remove the web bug (at the very bottom of the message).

Tutorial: Edit the Hosts File and Edit the Message to Remove the Webbug

This video tutorial shows you how to edit the Hosts file. It also shows you how to edit the message to remove the web bug.

To remove the web bug or convert to plain text:

Put the message into Edit mode to remove the web bugOpen the message and go into Edit mode. In Outlook 2007 and 2010, you'll go to the Actions Command, Edit message.

In older versions, look on the Edit menu in an open message.

Note: It may take a few seconds to enter Edit mode as Outlook will need to download external content.

Once in Edit mode either:

Locate the line containing the offending link and delete it.

Or switch to the Format Text ribbon and choose Plain text.

Save and close the message.


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